Taking the Red Sox away from these FAILURES: PT. 4: Blame the Manager

We ask for a FOURTH time: Who kidnapped our Red Sox?

Hand me my Red Sox souvenir Giant Foam Finger, ONCE AGAIN!

A: ALL of the above! And it’s time for the Citizens of Red Sox Nation to take their team back!

(ED. NOTE: As we said in parts 1,2, and 3, Sox fans need to pull together and adopt the Green Bay Packers plan, where the fans own the team, or else we are stuck with a disinterested owner, an ego maniac CEO, who thinks he knows more about baseball than the GM, and a GM who takes out his resentment of the CEO on the manager, who was hired by the CEO.

Thus, we will use a series format with 6 posts:

1-4 will point the finger at the [1]Owner, [2]CEO, [3] GM, and [4] Manager.

5 PLAYERS, we will blame a few players and suggest “deep drill” surgery for the patient. [think trades and prospects]

6 will offer a plan to take the team back [think Green Bay Packers]

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MANAGER

Q:  Who caused our venerable franchise to come full circle from the 1967 “Impossible Dream” to the 2012 “Impossible Team”?

Bobby Valentine is a very intelligent person, who knows a lot about baseball, who loves attention, and was set-up to fail by a friend.  He is a modern day Rip Van Winkle, who has awakened after 12 years, who is trying to use his Old School methods on Modern Millionaires, who now play for money over pride and self-respect.

During the Sox September Swoon of 2012, manager Tito Francona went into a fugue state and drifted downward from a “laissez faire” approach to the most passive form of benign neglect.  Mr. Francona’s personal life was on fire; he became distracted and withdrawn.  As a result, he let the monkeys take over the zoo [especially the kitchen and media room].

Just three months later: enter Bobby Valentine.

Bobby Valentine’s  failure to succeed with the Red Sox is primarily due to his over abundance of self-confidence, which, although supported by a successful career, has gained him the reputation as a “smart Alec” with an Super-sized ego.

It was this ebullient self-confidence that made him susceptible to his friend Larry Lucchino, an even more excessively confident man, who borders on diagnosable megalomania.

At some point in the winter, CEO Lucchino hatched a Master Plan in his fertile imagination: the September Swoon Sox needed a new manager that would “kick ass,” shake them up and bring professional discipline to the team.  He decided that his friend Bobby was the perfect man for the task.

And so it began…

Owner John Henry had privately told Lucchino that he was in charge of the Red Sox, so the ubiquitously “empowered” Lucchino was confident that, whoever Cherington dug up as candidates, he would prevail and Valentine would manage the Red Sox in 2012 and 2013.

The only hurdle left before implementation was Bobby, but Larry was sure he could convince his friend to take on the job.

At some time prior to November 3, 2011, he called Bobby and they had a meeting.  Larry made his case and, after the obligatory mention of the “downside” of the Master Plan, Bobby bit.

Many other equally capable, but less confident men would have demurred, considering:

  • After the September Swoon, the clubhouse had become a toxic pile of sullen adolescents, clubhouse snitches, prima donnas, and no leadership.The inmates had been allowed enough time to take over the asylum.  It was like handing a new manager a wet bag of garbage.
  • The Red Sox Nation is a cauldron of contentiousness, where rabid fans and merciless media are relentless in their criticism of the team.
  • With the third largest payroll in MLB, expectations were very high.
  • Too many players were on long-term contracts, which tended toward an “I don’t need to listen to you; I can wait you out” attitude.

Despite these fundamental problems and his own awareness that:

He was away from the game for 12 years.

He had a reputation for bad-mouthing his players in the media.

He knew he was being rammed down the GM’s throat.

He knew about his reputation for lobbing Molotov cocktails at sparks.

Bobby took the job.

He took it, because he fell under the spell of hubris.

We will refine the definition to more elegantly describe Mr. Valentine.

With him is it the temptation of  his ego that allows him to suspend reality and believe that he can do something that others cannot.  Like untying the mythical  “Gordian Knot,” or worse, “shaping up” a toxic Red Sox team.

It is his flavor of hubris that craves attention; a voracious and insatiable need to feed the ego with recognition.

It is his flavor of arrogance that derives less from excessive pride and more from passion.

Take his hubris down a notch and it is courage, determination, and idealism.

On Baseball Tonight he was commenting on stories, but that was not enough: he wanted to be the story.

Because he missed The Show and the limelight; he took on an impossible task.

In classic literature, hubris inexorably resigns the hero to terrible consequences.

It was Mr. Valentine’s heroic, but tragic, attempt to overstep normal human limits.

“Between the Idea and the Reality… falls The Shadow.” –T.S. Eliot

After obtaining Valentine’s commitment, Lucchino dragged Cherington with him to the World Affairs Council Panel discussion in Hartford on November 3rd.  Larry asked that Valentine show up early for the panel discussion in which they would participate.

He used this staged opportunity to informally introduce Cherington to Valentine. With Ben in the audience, Larry expected he would be impressed with Valentine.  Apparently he was not, since no formal interview was scheduled.

Undeterred, Lucchino ordered Cherington to informally meet with Valentine a few weeks later [Nov. 21] at the Fenway offices and to schedule a formal interview with management for Valentine the following day.

Cherington was ready to recommend his choice for manager, Dale Sveum, after the first round of interviews.  But, Lucchino has other plans.  To insert his candidate, he requested a second round of interviews.  The delay resulted, perhaps coincidentally, in the hiring of Dale Sveum, by Cherington’s former boss, GM Theo Epstein, to manage the Cubs, on November 18th.

Cherington had been stalled by his CEO and his mentor, Theo the Golden Boy, had stolen his new manager. Things were about to get worse for Gentle Ben:

On November 21, Peter Abraham, Globe Staff, observed:

“Valentine emerged as the leading candidate last week after Red Sox ownership met with Dale Sveum and did not make him an offer. Sveum had been Cherington’s choice after the first round of interviews.

Now Valentine is the front-runner in that he apparently comes pre-approved by team president Larry Lucchino. Valentine also has the support of principal owner John Henry, according to sources.”

[http://articles.boston.com/2011-11-21/sports/30425642_1_bobby-valentine-ben-cherington-red-sox]

Lucchino needed a thin cover of credibility for his Second round of interviews, so the PR office put out the propaganda that three other candidates, Sandy Alomar Jr., Gene Lamont and Torey Lovullo were in contention along with Valentine.  Lucchino was directing a disingenuous farce; these three “candidates” were simply straw men, since he was running the Red Sox, even the hiring of the new manager.

At some point, Cherington figured out that he would not be allowed to make the choice; a decision usually assigned to the General Manager; he realized that Lucchino had neutered him and that, since owner Henry had granted his CEO unlimited power, Ben was now the “Monkey in the Middle” between Lucchino and Valentine.

On November 22nd Valentine went through the motions of the interview and then met with the media, fully prepared, confident [act surprised] and beaming.

It was the 23rd anniversary of the unveiling of the Stealth bomber.

Adding a second insult to Cherington’s GM role, Valentine leaked the decision.

On November 29th, USA Today scooped the media and Cherington:

“Bobby Valentine accepted the Boston Red Sox’s offer Tuesday to become their next manager, according to Tommy Lasorda, special assistant to Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

“I’m glad he accepted the job,” Lasorda told USA TODAY. “He’s good for baseball and he”ll get them right back where they should be. Let me put it this way: They won’t be drinking beer and eating chicken in that clubhouse again, I guarantee you that.”

Valentine telephoned Lasorda, a former Dodger mentor, to inform him he accepted the job. Valentine was on a charity event in Japan, where he managed for seven years. The Red Sox have declined comment, but Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said Monday that he hoped to have a manager by Friday.”

Tommy Lasorda?

Pre-empted and undercut by Valentine, an embarrassed and chagrined Cherington [belatedly] revealed, the next evening, that Bobby Valentine would be introduced as manager Thursday, when Cherington’s Press Release said “the team will host a news conference at 5:30 p.m. at Fenway Park to announce Valentine’s hire.”

Red Sox Fan:

“Valentine knew what he was getting into, he knew the coaches weren’t his choice, he knew the GM didn’t want him but his ego still took the job.” [betterchoice replying to brownbomber]

Thus did “empowered” Red Sox CEO, Larry Lucchino send his friend Bobby Valentine into an Insane asylum, where a few inmates, fueled by chicken and beer and a video game induced boldness, had rushed into the leadership vacuum and were becoming intoxicated by the heady brew of power.

And Lucchino, Valentine’s boon companion, patted his pal on the back, instantly “empowered” him, shoved Bobby in the doorway and locked it behind him, expecting Valentine to play Nurse Ratched and “show them who’s boss.”

Brilliant, Larry!” thought Larry.

Red Sox Fan:

“Proof positive that it\’s time for Bobby V to go. It takes two to make an argument, and Valentine has never backed away from escalating a minor tiff into WWIII. I was anxious for Francona to leave, because I thought that he was too easy on his players, but I didn\’t think that he\’d be replaced by \”Little Hitler\”. Now we know why Valentine was out of MLB for 20 years or so. [fideauxdon]

[http://bostonherald.com/sports/baseball/red_sox/view.bg?articleid=1061150690&format=comments&cnum=11]

Thus did this venerable franchise come full circle from the 1967 “Impossible Dream” to the 2012 “Impossible Team.”

Bobby Valentine, more than most people, knows how to smile while clenching his teeth. He understands it looks better to smile, but he has never been good at concealing his true feelings.”–TYLER KEPNER, NYT, July 28, 2012.

[http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/sports/baseball/bobby-valentine-fighting-for-job-with-flawed-red-sox-roster.html?_r=1]

Set up to be the “New Sheriff in Town,”  believing the Lucchino had “empowered” him with full managerial authority, Valentine went right to work: he cleaned up the chicken and beer that was still rotting in the clubhouse and confidently proclaimed a ban.

And, so it continued…

Shortly,  Valentine said Youkilis wasn’t “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past.” [SOURCE: Steven Buckley, Boston Herald]

Still smarting from previous slights and indignities perpetrated by Lucchino and Valentine Gentle Ben retaliated (via CBS Boston) by backing up the player, undercutting the authority of the manager:

“First of all, the way he expressed that was not the best way to express that. He said the same thing to Kevin and apologized. I think we’ll all learn from it and be able to handle it differently.”

Q:  Where was his omnipotent CEO pal, Larry, when Valentine was chided and undercut by GM Cherington?

Then Pedroia inserted himself into the controversy, sticking up for his team mate:

”I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do. But that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.  We’ve got Youk’s back. He’s played his [butt] off for us for a long time …”

In his weekly show, WHDH-TV’s Sports Extra, Valentine tried to spin Pedroia’s statement:

“That’s one of those things. I really appreciate players when they stick together. That’s exactly what he should be doing.”

But the damage had already been done and the “Us vs. Him” game was on and Bobby was just beginning to realize that the players were “serious sunburn” sensitive to his reputation for calling out his Mets’ players in the media and ready to react to the slightest touch.

Although Valentine believed he had the full support of Lucchino, his pal who was running the Red Sox, his broadcast experience told him:  the media “story line” would he: “Valentine vs. Cherington!” and “Players Battle Manager!”

Besides being critical of his players in the media, Valentine had a habit of revealing the content of personal conversations with the players; Boston-Herald writer John Tomase noted:

“What has happened, instead, is that Valentine has repeatedly violated his players’ confidence by revealing private conversations, and to what end? His motivations remain inscrutable.

For instance:

• In May in Baltimore, Valentine revealed that catcher Kelly Shoppach had come to him to discuss a lack of playing time.

At the time, starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia was scorching the ball, and Shoppach was condemned for being selfish. The only problem is he went about things the right way, asking Valentine in private, never once complaining to the media. It only became an issue when Valentine volunteered the information to reporters.

The feeling in the clubhouse is that Valentine made a calculated disclosure because he preferred that the team summon Ryan Lavarnway from Pawtucket to serve as backup catcher.

• A month later in Chicago, Josh Beckett [stats] went on the disabled list. Thanks to an off day late that week, Clay Buchholz could have started the series finale on regular rest, with Felix Doubront being skipped.

But Valentine disclosed that Buchholz, having thrown more than 220 pitches over his previous two starts, requested an extra day of rest. “I totally understand it,” Valentine added.

Did he? Revealing that information when he just as easily could have said, “We decided Clay could use the extra rest,” suggested the exact opposite, and did not go unnoticed by Buchholz’ teammates, who felt his competitiveness was being unfairly called into question.

• The latest example came Sunday night after a 14-1 victory over the Indians. Valentine was asked about Carl Crawford’s monster game, and volunteered that Crawford was lifted because of a sore wrist, information Crawford clearly wanted held in-house.”

[http://www.bostonherald.com//sports/baseball/red_sox/view.bg?articleid=1061153250&utm_source=Enews&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=SECTION_sports_DATE_08-15-2012--07.08]

“Between the Idea and the Reality… falls The Shadow.” –T.S. Eliot

Valentine’s Spring of Optimism, suddenly skipped summer and switched, unseasonably, to a dark mid-Winter; Valentine would spend the rest of the 2012 baseball season in the shadows; his only option was to clench his teeth, put on that famous shiny smile, enthusiastically feign optimism, play out the string of the 2012 season, and privately plan his return to Sports broadcasting.

Thus, despite the plain Reality – his team at .500 (55-56), 9 games behind the Yankees; 4½ games out of the second wild-card spot, behind four teams, he grins hard and says, two days ago [August 8th] in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI:

“I think we’re a playoff team and I think we’re going to be there before the season is over…”

When the host suggested that the Red Sox would probably need 89 wins to clinch the second wild-card spot, which would require them to win 2 out of 3 of their remaining 51 games, a 34-17 record, Valentine replied:

“Yeah, of course…Of course, we can do better than that. I don’t think that’s so optimistic, I think it’s realistic if we stay healthy. Right now we have some concerns in the bullpen. If that stabilizes I think there’s big runs ahead.”

Was Valentine channeling, Leo Durocher, manager of the 1951 Giants; a team that went 50-12 over their final 62 games?  A team that had spirit, leadership, guts.

In 1951 Willie Mays, who was paid $5,000.

Win or lose, Josh Beckett will be paid his full $17 MILLION for 2012. If he wins 3 of his remaining 7 starts and finishes with 8-13, each W would cost the Red Sox over $2 MILLION.

In a recent article, “10 Worst Pennant Race Collapses

A countdown of the worst blown leads in baseball history

[http://baseball.about.com/od/majorleaguehistory/tp/pennantcollapses.htm]

The Red Sox came in first; that is: worst.

Q:  Are the 2012 Red Sox more like the 1951 Giants, or more like the 2011 Red Sox?

Long after he has returned to broadcasting, bar room debaters will still be defending Valentine, as the Globe’s Peter Abraham  does so effectively here: http://articles.boston.com/2011-11-20/sports/30422627_1_bobby-valentine-ben-cherington-front-runner.

Possibly someday, Bobby Valentine will be joyfully preparing a gourmet Japanese dinner for two in his kitchen in Stamford, Connecticut, as he sings along with the Dylan song on KOOL 96.7, the oldies’ station:

‘Everybody said they’d stand behind me
When the game got rough
But the joke was on me
There was nobody even there to call my bluff…”

And, his wife enters the kitchen and Bobby says:

“It will be ready in about five minutes…

…You know, I still can’t figure out how I let Larry talk me into taking that job…”

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NEXT UP: Blaming the PLAYERS.

Thus, we will use a series format with 6 posts:

1-4 will point the finger at the…

[1]  Owner [http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/08/06/taking-the-red-sox-away-from-these-failures-pt-1-blame-the-owner/]

[2]  CEO [http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/08/07/taking-the-red-sox-away-from-these-failures-pt-2-blame-the-ceo/

[3] GM

[4] Manager

[5 ] will blame a few players and suggest “deep drill” surgery for the patient. [think trades and prospects]

[6] will offer a plan to take the team back [think Green Bay Packers]

 

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Tags: 1951 Giants AL East AL Wild Card Anti-trust Baseball Tonight Ben Cherington Bill Veeck Blame Bobby Valentine Boston Globe Boston Herald Branch Rickey Bud Selig Carl Crawford CEO Chicago Cubs Congress Dale Sveum David Ortiz Dennis And Callahan Show Ex Exemption Fail Failure Gene Lamont General Manager GM Green Bay Packers Jackie Robinson John Henry Larry Lucchino Lary Doby Manager MLB Commissioner NESN New York Times Part 2 Peter Abraham Pt. 2 Reserve Clause Sandy Alomar Jr. SEC Supreme Court T.S. Eliot Taking The Red Sox Away From These FAILURES: PT. 1: Blame The Owner Taking The Red Sox Away From These FAILURES: PT. 2: Taking The Red Sox Away From These FAILURES: PT. 3 Taking The Red Sox Away From These FAILURES: PT. 4 Taking The Red Sox Away From These FAILURES: PT. 5 Taking The Red Sox Away From These FAILURES: PT. 6 Theo Epstein Tommy Lasorda Torey Lovullo TYLER KEPNER USA TODAY WEEI

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